Made Possible By
One of Brett White’s first assignments as a CFO was also one of his toughest. Back in 2001, with 10 years of career-building at Oracle Corp. behind him, White recalls eagerly stepping into his first CFO role–only to be handed a less than exhilarating task.
During a meeting in his first week on the job, White was welcomed by the CEO, who then asked him to pull together and execute a plan to eliminate one-third of the company’s workforce, or roughly 850 employees.
“It was a palm-to-the-forehead moment,” says White. “I realized that this was not just crunching numbers, and that the decisions that were required to be made would have an enormous impact on people’s lives.”
Fifteen years and four CFO tours of duty later, White received a call from a recruiter regarding a health and wellness business located down the coast.
“The business was a recurring revenue model and SaaS business, so it meant no more of this end-of-quarter fingernail-chewing stuff. It was all highly recurring with a group of A-list investors,” adds White, who arrived in Mindbody’s CFO office in 2016.
SUBSCRIBE TO CFO THOUGHT LEADER
Guest: Brett White
Company: Mindbody, Inc.
Headquarters: San Luis Obispo, CA
CFOTL: Share with us a finance strategic moment …
White: Being the smartest person in the room or the subject matter expert is just not enough. You have to be able to communicate your message in a way that others understand and will retain. Otherwise, they’re likely not to take action or won’t be able to cascade to their team and you’ll have missed an opportunity. This led me to evolve my thinking around this concept that I like to promote that I call “So, what?” communication, which is kind of around the principle of if I ask you what time it is, please don’t tell me how to build a watch. Make sure that all aspects of communication are oriented around the “So, whats?” of the topic. And in order to do that, you have to know your materials. I’ve got a little poster on my wall here of Albert Einstein, and it says, “If you can’t explain it simply, you just don’t understand it well enough.”
So, I preach that to my team. I preach that to the middle managers here. Don’t show me a chart with a whole bunch of numbers. Tell me what I need to know. And that really forces them to understand their material and understand how people process information. The other kind of learning is that it’s really important to understand your audience and what they want to get out of the engagement and how they process information. So, I tell my team, if we’re going to have a meeting, we’re going to have “So, whats?,” and you’re going to tell me the three to five big things that you want everybody in this meeting to take away. They have to remember, they have to be able to remember it. If you ask them the next day, they have to be able to repeat it to you because that way, they can actually cascade it and take action. And the meeting actually has had value. So, it’s a pretty simple idea that I think has had a positive impact on the company. We’ve got more opportunity there, but I think that it’s working.